Northwest Jazz Profile Magazine
Top CD review from
By Chuck Dauphin
Gretchen Christopher has led an amazing life and an amazing career. As part of the group the Fleetwoods, she recorded songs like “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue.” It has been a while since she has recorded a project, but this one was definitely worth the wait.
The album, which serves as a musical autobiography of sorts, gives one a look into her dynamic story and life. From being a part of musical history to reuniting with her first love, it’s all here…in sixteen chapters!
Musically, what works the best here includes the dramatic “Autumn Gold,” on which she gives a stunning vocal. Also impressive is the wistful and expressive “Before You Go.” Many of the songs on the project have a sparse arrangement, allowing for the voice of Gretchen Christopher to be the main focus, and on each track….her vocal shines a little brighter with each listen.
There are also a few songs, such as “Everything I Wanna Be” and “What Good Is Pride,” that could work well as show tunes. She handles them well. Maybe the most meaningful track is the inspirational “Gotta Take That Ride,” which is all about taking risks. It might mean going out on a limb, but sometimes (with this album being an example!) they are worth it!
For more about Gretchen or to buy this CD, visit https://www.thefleetwoods.com/gretchensbio.html
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Harr. All rights reserved.
A real treasure for your audience
On September 10, 2008 Craig Marshall Smith wrote:
Life sometimes provides us with unanticipated golden opportunities and moments of grace, and Gretchen's Sweet
Sixteen has been one of those for you, and a real treasure for your audience and for those of us who remember with great fondness your past performances with the Fleetwoods.
This CD is a by-product of passion, heart, and joy - and those qualities are felt by the listener. We can go back in time with rejuvenated versions of familiar songs, and be uplifted by the thoughts expressed in your brand new songs.
The story of your life is very moving - and the photographs that accompany the CD are not only great to see but some
of them are quite surprising.
We've waited, waited so long - and it was worth it!
Craig Marshall Smith
Highlands Ranch, CO
A masterful performance
On September 8, 2008 Bob Bayrer wrote:
Well done, Gretchen! This one is a real winner. (Scotland)
On July 8, 2008, Andrew & Janet Gray in Edinburgh, Scotland wrote:
I wanted to let you know how much your latest album appealed to me. It's a rare event for me when I find emotions being stirred and images conjured up in my mind's eye by a new album. I thought all that was in my past and no longer happened. All this is achieved through the medium of your wonderful voice! I like the fact that it is very much your voice, without too intrusive a musical arrangement. The overall effect is one of a gentle melodiousness. A hint, perhaps of melancholy - but Carol King had that in 'Tapestry' - and it too was a great album! And there too was that golden timbre and the soft piano accompaniment. It makes me think of drifting gently downstream on an autumn afternoon, past the spires of Oxford. It has a timelessness that makes me think of Rupert Brooke's,
'Stands the Church clock still at three?
And is there honey still for tea?'
It has resonances which will only become richer with each listening, establishing it as a life-long favourite.
Well done, Gretchen! This one is a real winner.
Love from all,
Andrew & Janet
May, George & Katie Gray in Edinburgh, Scotland
I prefer the new ones
On May 16, 2008, at 12:00 PM, Danny Walchle wrote:
My wife bought me your "Suite 16" CD for my birthday.
When I listened to parts online before, I told you the
remakes sounded good but different. After playing it
in the car on the way to work for a few days I prefer
the new ones.
Amanda - the daughter who wanted to use "Graduation's
Here" for the senior song when she graduated last year
- loves the way you slowed down the end of the song.
Thanks for autographing it and I look forward to your
Best wishes for many years of happiness together for
you and Vos.
While Christopher's professional life has been well documented elsewhere,
this album reveals a parallel inner life of fame and fortune, disillusionment,
self-discovery, fulfillment, and lost love regained that could easily be turned
into one of the most inspiring romantic dramas in cinematic history.
(For the complete review, click here.)
Is that really you doing all three voices on Track 10 ("Come Softly to Me") including the "male" voice?
If that's you, it's incredible.
If that's the case, I will scrap my original idea of playing a medley of other versions of "CSTM" instead play several seconds (maybe up to a minute) of Track 10 to open the show and tell people "it's not what you think!"
If that's really you, then you sure had me fooled!
I've been enjoying listening to the interviews you have posted. They are really good.
What a surprise!
On Mar 6, 2008, at 1:43 PM, Joel Whitburn of RECORD RESEARCH wrote:
What a surprise! Thanks very much for sending me your CD album. Im so pleased to see that you're still performing, recording and carrying-on The Fleetwoods name. No question that The Fleetwoods were one of my all-time favorite vocal groups in that important early rock n roll era from 1959 to 1963. Your trio ruled the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1959 with two great classic #1 songs, Come Softly To Me and Mr. Blue.
Loved your new Sweet Sixteen album. Your vocals are pure and wonderful throughout the 16 tracks.
Let me know if and when you ever perform in Milwaukee. I'd love to see your show.
I’ve always loved songs about the seasons, and, if I had to pick a favorite it would be “Autumn Gold”.
reviews from the media"
On Feb 25, 2008, in his nationally syndicated column (Ask "Mr. Music"), Jerry Osborne wrote:
Gretchen's masterpiece, “Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16)” (Gold Cup 1601), came out a few months ago, and received glowing reviews from the media.
Among its accolades is being named a Billboard Critics Pick as one of the 10 Best Albums of 2007.
Unlike most concept albums, Christopher's “Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16)” is a completely truthful soundtrack of her life (including the Fleetwoods experience) and, more importantly, her first love (inexplicably, someone other than this journalist).
Gretchen wrote and arranged all of the music to tell the story as it happened. She also created an insert booklet, with fascinating text and photos, all of which enhances the listening experience.
Music historians should now find it easier to define a concept album, as “Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16)” is the model of the genre.
It is fitting we talk about Gretchen's album this week, since February 29th is her 17th birthday. For another 11-plus years, this leap year baby will still be a teenager.
Happy birthday Soft One!
"I'm happy to be part of such a great celebration".
On Jan 29, 2008, at 4:59 PM, Jim Levinson wrote:
It's true that I "waited, waited so long," but yes, it was well worth it! I love the album, and I'm happy to be part of such a great celebration.
Thanks also for the autographed photo, which is wonderful.
Now you're 16 going on 17. My best wishes for your 17th birthday. Hope it will be another glorious day in your life!
Billboard Critics' Picks include
16) among 10 BEST ALBUMS of 2007
On Dec 20, 2007, from information appearing on Billboard.com
Billboard.com Chart Beat columnist (and author of The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, which includes Christopher's first song "Come Softly To Me"), Fred Bronson picks Gretchen Christopher, "Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16)" (Gold Cup) among 10 BEST ALBUMS and writes, "The former Fleetwoods singer, born Feb. 29, celebrates her '16th birthday' by turning her life into a stunning suite of 16 songs."
GRETCHEN GETS AIRPLAY
Look for it to be aired on The Cruisin' Show, www.rockitradio.net
JOHNNY G – CRUISIN’ SHOW 129 – OCT. 2007
Another eclectic mix of classics & rarities plus something brand new from The Fleetwoods' Gretchen Christopher. Her voice is even better than ever!! Gretchen and I chose one song each from her new CD. I'm sure you'll love both of them! Check her out at her website! www.GretchenChristopher.com
1. Without a Love - Johnny Isle (1959)
2. Mean Woman Blues - Jerry Lee Lewis (1957)
3. Sweet & Easy to Love - Roy Orbison (1957)
4. Take a Little Chance - Jimmy De Berry (19??)
5. Gimme Some Lovin' - Harold Jenkins (Conway Twitty) (1956)
6. Rockin' In Baghdad - Jerry Reed (1957)
7. Hong Kong Jelly Wong - The Royaltones (1956)
8. Sweet Sixteen - Gretchen Christopher (2007)
9. You Been Torturing Me - The Four Young Men ( 1960)
10. Looking For You - The Dukes (1959)
11. So Tired - Russ Morgan (1949)
12. Please Please Me - The Beatles (1963)
13. Wake Up Little Susie - The King Brothers (1957)
14. Blue Jean Bop - Gene Vincent (1956)
15. Hurricane - Joe Maphis & Larry Collins (1957)
16. Whistle Bait - Larry Collins (1958)
17. Snatch It & Grab It - Freddie Hart (1956)
18. William Tell Overture - Glen Campbell (1971)
19. Devil Gate Drive - Suzi Quatro (1974)
20. Schoolboy Crush - Cliff Richard & the Shadows (19??)
21. Dearest One - Fashions (1961)
22. That'll Get It - Larry Brinkley (19??)
23. Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis Presley (1956)
24. Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away - Joe Hinton (1964)
25. Autumn Gold - Gretchen Christopher (2007)
On Oct 17, 2007
Matt The Cat
Gretchen, Interviewing you on 10/10 was a career highlight for me. Thanks so much for coming on my show and introducing America to your
new songs alongside your classic favorites. You are one of a kind.
Never stop singing.
a work from your heart"
"What a great CD"
On October 7, 2007 Fred Hemeon wrote:
What a great CD I've listened to Sweet sixteen 4 times now and I like it more each time. Gretchen your voice is still wonderful!! While I liked most of the tracks, I was stunned by Autumn Gold. It has become a song I play over and over. It has special meaning to me because my wife and I loved the autumn, as it is particularly beautiful in upstate New York where we live. We did take many, many autumn trips to Vermont, New York and Mass. My wife Kay passed away August 5th 2007, so this song while making me cry also brought back loving memories, which last forever. Thanks Gretchen for the beautiful music, I just love the CD.
All the best, Fred
"The new CD-WOW!"
On October 6, 2007 Roger Melin wrote:
The new CD - WOW! Got it, listened to it over and over already, and love it! The remakes are better than could be expected, and the new stuff is remarkably pleasant to listen to. THANK YOU for sharing your talents with us, Gretchen. Dizzy was right: "you sing like an angel" and you always have. Yet not just the voice, but the talent behind it all. The production work is exquisite, arrangements magnificent, and the orchestration is true to the concept of the album. And each time I listen to the entire CD, my blues go away.
Thank you. Roger Melin
"well worth the wait!"
On October 5, 2007 Mike Slater wrote:
Hi Gretchen-- I just received the package from you containing
your new CD, and I absolutely love it! It was well worth the wait! Thank you so much for remembering me! I loved what you wrote on it
too, and I really appreciate it! I just listened to the entire CD
and read the booklet as well. Your story is quite interesting and it
was so nice to hear about your first love re-entering your life
after 40 years...not everyone can say that! As for the songs, they
are really great! Like you said in your story, these songs would fit
very well in a Broadway play... especially the up-tempo ones, which
I thought sounded a lot like show tunes. I also enjoyed the new
recordings of "Come Softly To Me" and "Graduation's Here"...they're
really great! Your new songs have a contemporary sound, and yet you
still have that soft style and sound that made the Fleetwoods
recordings so beautiful and enjoyable. A lot of these would have
been perfect material for the group back in the '60's! Your voice
still sounds just as beautiful as it did back then, and you're still
as attractive as ever! I know how long and hard you worked on these
songs, but I hope they're not your last. I can't thank you enough
for sending me the CD and for all the wonderful music that you,
Barbara and Gary have given us through the years. Whenever I go out,
I always have to have a Fleetwoods CD with me to listen to in the
car...and now, your new one will be traveling with me too! I hope
you are well and I wish you all the best. Here's hoping you will
keep giving us your beautiful music and voice!---
On October 1, 2007 Amanda wrote:
On July 10, 2006 Barbara Ellis wrote:
Subject: amazing you
She worked on this project I should imagine, with both love and hate for all the hours, weeks, months and years given. There are some tunes written while we were Fleetwoods together. My favorite, "Blues Go Away". She was so young to know such heartbreak yet it all came from her soul.
"Before You Go", another favorite along with "Autumn Gold". With lyrics and melody so touching. These were written later on in her career, and showing the same haunting soulful feelings.
I have not heard all the tunes on this CD, but knowing Gretchen they will be her blood, sweat, tears and soul. She always gives her best to us.
I wish you the best my dear old friend, and hope your fans and newcomers to your music sit back and enjoy.
Always, All ways, Barbara
SUITE 16: "Blues Go Away" .... could be a "standard", right from the first listen.
On Jun 12, 2007, at 2:00 AM, Wayne Stierle wrote:
Gretchen Christopher, founder of the hit making trio, The Fleetwoods, has always been active and making new music. (The Fleetwoods were among only a few groups to remain totally intact from the fifties into the mid-sixties).
Here is an interesting CD that defies a territory as it crosses into several musical areas. Gretchen reprises her own "Graduation's Here" in a surprisingly upbeat and convincing recording, as well as her best known composition, "Come Softly To Me", in two arrangements which would interest any fan of The Fleetwoods. "Sweet Sixteen" is a personal journey song that has a good story going for it, and even tips its' hat to "Mr. Blue" and "Come Softly To Me". "Autumn Gold" and "Before You Go" are as melancholy as the titles suggest, with Gretchen bringing her own lyrics to life, while "Everything Good In My Life" is an anthem to positive thinking and living.
For myself, "Blues Go Away" is a song that suggests it could be a "standard", right from the first listen. Gretchen has written and created a jazz/blues ballad that would sound at home on an easy-jazz station in the wee wee hours of the morning. As a song writer and vocalist, Gretchen brings a Peggy Lee aura to this fine recording of her own inspired composition.
All in all, this is a CD with something for everybody, in a generous 16 tracks from a true rock n' roll survivor.
OF THE FLEETWOODS FAME and BMI MILLION AIRS SONGWRITER
CD REVIEW BY KK RYDER
"A FLEETWOOD STEERS HER OWN CAREER TOWARDS SOLO SUCCESS"
Gretchen Christopher has captured, on Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN! (SUITE 16), a birthday present, not only to herself and long waiting fans, but also to the very FIRST love of her life, Vos!
The CD helps one to envision sitting in a Broadway play or at a ballet with a story unfolding before their eyes - of, well, her life!
It's like a fairy tale... for her to now be with her very FIRST love, after years apart and a series of emotional roller coasters, including triumphant victories with her career as a songwriter and as one of the beautiful songbirds of THE FLEETWOODS.
Gretchen Christopher regally captures her soul on not vinyl, this time around, but on CD. She shares with the listener hit songs of her FLEETWOOD cruising days, "Graduation's Here" and two versions of "Come Softly To Me"; one is performed live beautifully a cappella and the other has a nostalgic quality revisited in this studio arrangement.
"The Hardest Promise I'll Keep" is an anticipation song about when your heart knows that you have to let a love go…but knowing deep down, if the love is a forever love, that it will come back.
On "What Good Is Pride When You're Dyin' Inside", a fun reggae feel mixed with a cool 50's guitar makes an appealing interesting combination.
"Blues Go Away", Gretchen's voice has a great bluesy Etta James/Norah Jones quality to it!
The songs she has written and chosen tell the story of her life. They are songs that are relatable and heartfelt. I could even see someone like Norah Jones covering one or two of Gretchen's songs.
Gretchen has a very unique voice, she has the same beautiful songbird qualities of her FLEETWOOD days, but she also delivers a fresh jazzy, bluesy, theatrical feel which will pick up the listener and take them along on a journey as they follow Gretchen softly winding through the colors and emotions of her life, which could help this CD roll right off the shelves and help steer Gretchen Christopher into the hearts of her long waiting fans as well as new listeners!
On October 29. 2007 David Kelly wrote:
MUSICAL MEMOIRS OF A FLEETWOODS FAN IN IRELAND
WHO GREW UP TO BE
THE BRITISH VICE CONSUL IN DÜSSELDORF
By the time spring of 1959 arrived, I had already learned to appreciate good harmony singing (and had even begun to understand a little of its construction by singing in the school choir). Then the Fleetwoods, Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis and Gary Troxel entered my life. I first heard the Fleetwoods on Radio Luxembourg, the only station that beamed popular music on a regular basis to Britain at that time. Reception was always patchy, but we didn't have much alternative. (The only other place to hear real music was AFN, US Forces Radio out of Frankfurt, which could sometimes be picked up after dark. ) I was stopped in my tracks when they played "Come Softly To Me". There was a warmer and more gentle cadence to it than other harmony music and Gary's scat singing, the idea for which he later claimed came from a Dell Vikings record, was totally infectious and a perfect counterpoint to the girls' haunting harmonies. I knew nothing about the Fleetwoods and had never even seen a photo of them. A classmate said, "oh, they're from Washington, you know," and that was the first bit of background I acquired. "Come Softly To Me", already at No 1 in USA, became a big hit in England a month or so later, peaking at no. 8, a powerful achievement for a first release.
Later that year there followed two more hits, "Graduation's Here" and "Mr. Blue". The latter , written by Dewayne Blackwell (who later penned "Ferris Wheel" for the Everly Brothers), deservedly went to No 1 in USA. I was gradually discovering more about The Fleetwoods. They did indeed come from Washington, although not D.C. as I had first supposed, but Olympia in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest, about as far as you could get from D.C.
The line up of
two females and one male was unusual. I was only aware of one other
group using this format, Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Maxine and
Bonnie, with whom the Fleetwoods would later tour. What set the
Fleetwoods apart from all the the rest, however, was the subtle
three part harmonies and the sparse, understated musical
accompaniment. Each of the trio could sing the melody part and then
they could all slip into the harmony part together, sometimes within
the same song. Perfect. You couldn't pigeon hole them but their
voices, especially Gretchen's, had a certain jazz feel.
The years went by and I began to travel around the world with my work. Gretchen, Barbara and Gary continued to make superb music. They were in and out of the charts but always remained in heart and living room. After they left Dolton Records in late 1965 I didn't hear much news for a while. What a great thrill it was, therefore, when in 1974 I watched Steven Spielberg's film "American Graffiti" at the US Embassy in Delhi India and heard, among lots of other magnificent music, my idols singing "The Great Impostor", always one of my favourites. I went to the movie for five consecutive nights and even now I watch the DVD about once a month.
But by this time Gretchen, Barbara and Gary had gone their separate ways and news was very rare. I remember having a work-related meeting with a man from Olympia during this period and, quickly disposing of the business aspects, steered the conversation in the direction of my heroes. Of course he had heard of them but he couldn't give me any information as to their current activities and suggested I write to newspapers in the area, which I did but to no avail.
The highlight of the 1980s was Gretchen's gorgeous version of "Imagination" on the Buried Treasures album. Although I still did not get much news the Internet was just around the corner. I always remember that the first search I ever did on the net was "Fleetwoods". I eventually made contact with Gretchen who in the intervening years has patiently and graciously answered all my questions. Neither of us ever just takes her music for granted. My mails always conclude with "thank you for the music" and Gretchen invariably acknowledges it.
So where were we? Oh yes, early 2007 and the story continues. Gretchen is about to release her long awaited CD and is gaining a whole new generation of fans, including her own grandchildren and Ben, the first child of my office colleague Jenny. He only settles down to sleep each night after his mother has sung "Come Softly To Me" to him (which Jenny herself learned from her father and me). If her next child is a daughter she intends to name her Gretchen. I cannot think of a nicer compliment. I wonder if in the 1950s those two Olympia schoolgirls could possibly have imagined that their singing together would have such a wide-reaching effect? Now there's an interesting question for Gretchen.
Thank you for the music, Gretchen.
British Vice Consul
On Aug 5, 2007, at 12:42 PM, Charlotte Frank wrote:
Put your car keys beside your bed at night. If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies. This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and you start to put your keys away, think of this: It's a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage. If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break in your house, odds are the burglar or rapist won't stick around... after a few seconds all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won't want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there..... This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime.
P.S. I am sending this to everyone I know because I think it is fantastic. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can't reach a phone.
My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn't hear him. He can activate the car alarm and then she'll know there's a problem.
HERITAGE MUSIC REVIEW Part 1
On April 6, 2008, Doug Bright wrote:
HERITAGE MUSIC REVIEW Part
On May 8, 2008, Doug Bright wrote:
|View this delightful, moving performance of 6 year old Connie. http://www.glumbert.com/media/connie|
Treble clef image courtesy of Lisabeth's Music Images at http://www.gymell.com/doc/musicimages.shtml